Taking Care of Myself with the Latest Technology

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JDRF’s Kady Helme’s Perspective on a Hybrid Closed-Loop System for Type 1 Diabetes

Over the last fifteen years I have tried nearly all the latest type 1 diabetes (T1D) technology, but even as recently as a year ago, I am not sure that I would imagine I’d be here holding a compact artificial pancreas (AP) in my hand, sitting in my apartment. It is designed to help people with T1D control their blood glucose by simulating a healthy pancreas and it is not (yet) available outside of a clinical setting. I am so happy to have my own AP device for the past three months and I might be able to keep it for up to two years. To learn more about my technological odyssey and the day I turned on my very own AP, click here to watch a brief video.

I’m not a gadget geek as much as a person who wants to be in control of my diabetes. When I was ten years old, I remember my mom searching for a hospital that would prescribe an insulin pump to a child, and she found a great doctor at Yale University. Switching from long- and short-acting insulin shots to the pump gave me the freedom to eat whenever and whatever I wanted. It enabled me to be a more carefree child without such a rigid treatment schedule. At age 20, I added a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that enables me to monitor my sugar levels in real time. Instead of checking my glucose levels 8 to 10 times a day, I would receive a glucose reading every 5 minutes nonstop. It was so liberating.

Today, the AP device combines the CGM and an insulin pump with an algorithm to better simulate a real pancreas. In 2007 and 2010, I knew we were getting close to a single device when I participated in two different closed-loop trials at Yale University. During the first trial I was trapped in a hospital, eating carefully carbohydrate-counted hospital food, surrounded by computers and doctors checking on me. The second version of that trial was conducted in a hotel in 2014 where the doctors were able to monitor me remotely, as well. It is super amazing that I was able to be here by myself in my apartment when I turned it on. I have heaps of support from my family and friends who call and text me after I post about it, but there’s not a clinician knocking on my bedroom door and no one directs me on what to do.

Every day is challenging with T1D with or without devices, but I am always looking for new ways to make things a little easier because I am a very busy 25-year-old New Yorker. I normally look at my CGM about 200 times a day and I can imagine that I will only look at the AP device around 15 times a day. It will also bring me relief at night. Not only will it manage my highs and lows better, it will interrupt my sleep less because it will make adjustments automatically, so I can wake up feeling better rested.

The device gives me peace of mind. I will worry less about the possibility of “crashing” or having low blood sugar when I am riding on the subway. Bigger than my daily worries, this device can make people healthier through achieving tighter blood glucose control. My mom always told me that I need to take care of my T1D so that when a cure arrives I am healthy and complication-free.

I am so proud to be a part of these clinical trials, and every day when I come to work at JDRF I am reminded of how many researchers, scientists and grassroots organizations are working around the globe to find a cure for T1D. I feel fortunate to be able to use cutting-edge technological devices to manage my T1D and hope the data contributes to the development of new therapies to cure, prevent and treat the disease.

Why It Matters:

I love being a trial participant to help researchers gather the data they need to get these new devices on the market for EVERYONE, quicker. My study seeks to find out if the hybrid closed-loop system could safely and automatically control my glucose levels in an everyday setting.